Who is Elijah the Prophet?
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Who is Elijah the Prophet?

We are going to study Malachi 4:5-6 from the Preterist's point of view which is consistant with God's Word, "sola scriptura." We need to find out who is "Elijah the prophet" and what is "before the great and terrible day of the Lord" in this context. We are going to focus on two subjects in these verses. This is probably the one of most misunderstood interpretation from the futurist's view, especially from the dispensationalism camp. We will find out more details as we go on.

First of all, I am using the NASB. You can use your own Bible translation if you want to look into it. We need to look into Mal. 4:5-6, probably the last book of the OT canon with the last two verses of warning from the Lord God. It says, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land [not the earth, Heb: ge] with a curse."

Notice the word "Behold" which God spoke few times in the book of Malachi (2:2; 3:1; 4:1, 5). It means that God exhorted His chosen people to pay attention before the coming events upon them. Before closing the OT canon, God did send many prophets to warn the Israelites to turn to their Lord. Otherwise they will face terrible disasters if they were disobedient as Moses warned them in Deut. 28-32.

The Lord God says He will "send you [Israelites] Elijah the prophet ...And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their child, and the hearts of the children to their fathers." This Elijah the prophet is clearly identified as John the Baptist. Most dispensationalists and some futurists believe there will be a literal Elijah to come during the Great Tribulation and before the physical, second coming of Christ. Some of them believe John the Baptist was Elijah but he was rejected by the Jews. And then they rejected Christ's alleged bona fide offer of the Davidic kingdom. The kingdom has to be postponed or delayed into the distant future.

I disagree with that because no where in the Bible is that mentioned. There are some problems of interpretation, especially on dispensationalism hermeneutics. They realize that a true analysis of biblical text related to the timing of prophetic events endangers their eschatological position. The Bible, not current events or "newspaper exegesis", must be our interpreting guide. I can show you where the problems are from their view. Let us look into John 6:14-15, "When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus therefore perceiving that they intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." After Jesus' miracle, many people wanted Jesus and to make Him King but He withdrew again. Also, when Jesus was in trial with Pilate, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:33-37). Of course Jesus is the King of the Jews but what He meant was that His kingdom is not earthly, physical kingdom but a heavenly, spiritual kingdom made "without hands" (see Dan. 2:34, 44-45). It showed that God was not interested in a physical empire for the Jews, but the spiritual reign of Jesus.

Not only that, futurists or preconsummationists (amill, postmill, and historic premill) have some problems for different reasons. The Preterist's view has the solution and we will look some more. I believe God was right on schedule and nothing can thwart His purpose. God does not have "Plan B" because He already decreed before the foundation of the (Mosaic) world.

Now, we are going to look into John the Baptist's background. In Luke 1:5-25, this context is about the announcement of John the Baptist from the angel. Notice in verses 16 and 17, "And he [John] will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah" and then quoted from Malachi 3:1(emphasis mine). Clearly, it is not a literal Elijah. The Jews and the disciples were expecting a literal Elijah and an earthly kingdom to arrive. They were hoping to have a powerful messiah to conquer the Roman Empire and rule over the Gentiles on the earth. We will look at this as we go on.

In Matthew 3, this context is about John the Baptist's ministry. Notice in verse 2, John was preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" (emphasis mine). Not many Christians, even Jews understand the correct concept of the kingdom of God. The Jewish people of Christ's day were looking for this Messianic or Davidic kingdom to be established on the earth. This is the same problem with the dispensationalism's view on millennium (1,000 years) when Jesus will come again. If Jesus comes back and reigns on earth, He can no longer be our High Priest at the right hand of God in the Heavenly Sanctuary (Heb. 8:1-4).

Keep in mind that Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders. Jesus asked them about John the Baptist and obviously he was sent from heaven (Mark 11:27-33). John warned the Jewish leaders and their people to flee from the wrath (about, not in English translation - Gk: mello) to come. After Jesus was baptized and went into the wilderness for forty days, He also began preaching and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15 - emphasis mine).

Jesus also sent His disciples to preach the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 10:5-7). John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles repeatedly identified their contemporary generation of Jews as "the kingdom of God is at hand" that was to come "in the latter days" of the Jewish nation (Dan. 10:14 and 12:1-13). Join all this to the numerous imminency statements (Rom. 13:11-12; 16:20; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2; 2:5; 3:7-4:11; 8:13; 9:8-10; 10:25, 36-39; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20) which prove beyond a shadow of doubt. They spoke of themselves being in "the last days" of the Jewish nation. Even Jewish non-Christians and liberal theologians can see the imminency written all over the NT writings. It seems like Christians (futurists) are the only ones who cannot see it.

Most futurists have the problem with the interpretation in Mark 8:38-9:1 which Jesus says, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels". And He was saying to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power" (emphasis mine). The kingdom was to come in their generation. These two verses put the whole futurist (premill, amill and postmill) group in a real dilemma. Either it has happened in the past as Jesus promised or some of the disciples are still alive today or failed? Many futurists have been guilty of twisting these verses.

Now, we need to go back to focus on John the Baptist and what Jesus said about him. Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John in Matt. 11:7-19. Notice Jesus said in verse 11 and 14 "This is the one about whom it written, 'Behold, I send My messenger before your face, who will prepare Your way before You. ...If you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.' " And then He said in verse 16, 'But to what I shall compare this generation?' If Jesus said, "Elijah is to come" then it means there will be a coming of Elijah in the future, but He did not say that. Remember Jesus is the Son of God and the Prophet. Later after the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples asked Him, saying 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' in Matt. 17:10. Jesus answered, 'Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him.' Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist (Matt. 17:11-13) (emphasis mine). The reason why the Jews were confused is because they thought there will be a literal Elijah who is to come. Read in John 1:19-34 about the Jewish leaders who were questioning John the Baptist if he is the Christ or Elijah (Mal 4:5-6) or the Prophet (Deut 18:15). John answered "no" all of those questions. You might say, "But John said he is not Elijah." Yes, he is Elijah-like but not a literal Elijah. John the Baptist was sent by God from the OT prophecies in Isa. 40:3 and also in Mal. 3:1 as Jesus said.

Remember in Mal. 4:5-6, the Lord says, "I am going to send you [Israelites] Elijah the prophet" which is easily identified John the Baptist. Now we going to another subject in this passage, "Before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord...lest not I come and smite the land [Israel] with a curse." We must keep in mind that God was speaking to the Israelites and the land of Israel. So, John the Baptist was Elijah the Prophet. He already came before the great and terrible day of the Lord. Let's compare in other passages in the book of Acts:

Chapter 2:


And Chapter 3:

17 "And now, brethren [Jews], I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until {the} period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 "Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 23 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' 24 "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and {his} successors onward, also announced these days. 25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' 26 "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one {of you} from your wicked ways."

Now, we need to look into the phase "The Day of the Lord" which is a frequent statement in the OT and the NT. It means the coming of the judgment of God. If you read and study some of the OT passages, you will notice it often when the Lord CAME to punish some rebellious nations and even Israel. I can give you a few examples about "the day of the Lord" which occurred some nations in the OT. One is against Babylon by Medes in Isaiah 13. It says,

"The oracle concerning Babylon...Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty...Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light...Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them" (vv. 1, 6, 9, 10, 17).

Another one is againist Egypt by Babylon in Ezekiel 30. It says,

"Wail, 'Alas for the day!' For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near; It will be a day of clouds,, a time of doom for the nations. A sword will come upon Egypt...'Thus says the Lord GOD, " I will also make the multitude of Egypt cease by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" (vv. 1-26).

I could show you some more but in every case where it is used in the OT, it signifies a spiritual coming of God with power, but manifested in physical human armies. The language used in these passages sounds like the End of the World but it is not. The context makes it clear that it is talking about national downfalls. All of the references to a "Day of the Lord" in the NT refer to the same event - God's final desruction of the Jewish nation in 70 AD, through the agency of the Roman armies (Acts 2:20, 1 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thes. 5:2-6; 2 Thes. 2:2-12; 2 Peter 3:10-12; Rev. 6:17). The book of Malachi was probably the last of OT canon which may have been written about 400 B.C. This book is focused on Israel and the coming judgment of God.

Jesus and the apostles repeatedly identified their contemporary generation of Jews as the "perverse and crooked generation" and "this generation" (see Matt. 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:31-38; 24:4-34; Acts 2:40; Phil. 2:15, etc.). These were occurred within their generation. The integrity of the Bible is at stake in the discussion of the biblical meaning of "this generation." This is a real problem for the futurists because it is pure eisegesis. We need to step back out of our 20th century mindset and stop looking at the NT as if it was written in our generation. Read it as we were living in those great and terrible times in the 1st century.

Study Jesus' parables about the Jewish nation in Matt. 21:33-46; 22:1-11 and Luke 19:11-27. He also wept over the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44. Jesus cursed the fig tree forever (Mark 11:12-21). The land of Israel has been cursed. Jerusalem, the temple, the people, and the religious leaders were fruitless. Many Christians believe Israel is returning to the promised land which means the Lord is coming again in near future. But there are some problems. If you read the whole chapters in Deut. 28-32 which God warned the Israelites they would not always possess the physical land. If they did not follow God's Word, they would be continually lost and scattered among the nations. This have been fulfilled in 70 AD.

Josephus' Complete Works fits the description in Deut. 28. Josephus recorded the Jews ate the dead bodies during the great famine when the Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman armies. See in Josephus' Wars 6.3.3-5 (Deut. 28:45-57, especially v. 53). The Lord already uprooted the apostate Israel and given the nation (Church) bearing the fruits of it (Deut. 28:61-63 c.f. Matt. 21:43-45). After the Jerusalem was destroyed, many were scattered (Deut. 28:64-67). Many of them were into slavery and sent them to Egypt. See in Josephus' Wars 6.9.2-4 (Deut. 28:68).

None of the prophets predicted an ingathering without repentance first. The Israelis today are not repentant Christians. There is no way their immigration to Palestine is a result of repentance. The establishment of modern day Israel was approved by the United Nation because of their sympathy toward the Jews during World War II. But the ingathering promised in the OT and the NT was fulfilled in the "gathering" of all (Israelites) nations into Christ's spiritual kingdom. Physical things were superseded by the "better" spiritual things. Both Jew (the house of Judah) and Gentile (the house of Israel) became one in Christ. There is no longer the true twelve tribes of Israel today because they were destroyed and all of their genealogical records are lost in 70 AD. God smote the land of Israel with a curse.

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Covenant Law. In Matt. 5:17-19, read it carefully what Jesus said about the Law or the Prophets, "Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." If Jesus means until physical heaven and earth pass away then we would still bound with the Law today. If He means the Old Covenant, then it is passed away in 70 AD which all things have been accomplished. See in Hebrews 12:22-28, the contrast between the Mt. Sinai and the heavenly Jerusalem. That is why the Jews were having a hard time accepting Jesus' teaching on spiritual things instead of literal, earthly and physical things. The same is true with many Christians (Futurists) today.

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